Imran Tahir finished with 5 for 32, Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, 1st day, Dubai, October 23, 2013
Imran Tahir picked up his first five-wicket haul in Tests © AFP
Imran Tahir announced his comeback to Test cricket with a maiden five-wicket haul that embarrassed Pakistan as they were bowled out for 99 on the first day of the second Test in Dubai. Graeme Smith then steered his team into the lead towards the end of the day with an unbeaten half-century and with seven wickets in hand, South Africa have already taken charge of the Test.
The day belonged to Tahir, whose last Test figures in Adelaide had read 37-1-260-0. He picked up three wickets in the last ten minutes of the first session and then added two more early in the second as Pakistan collapsed to 99 – their third-lowest score against South Africa – in just 36.4 overs.
Two of those wickets, including that of Misbah-ul-Haq, came in the last over before lunch after Dale Steyn had removed Younis Khan in the penultimate one, meaning Pakistan had all but frittered away the advantage of batting first on a pitch that is expected to aid the spinners later in the Test.
Tahir was introduced as early as the 12th over of the innings, but bowled too full in his first few overs. Azhar Ali and Shan Masood, who were making gradual progress, were both happy to push him straight down the ground for comfortable singles. But one such full delivery caught the inside edge of Masood’s bat and hit the stumps after hitting his back leg.
The second wicket was the big one though as Tahir bowled a flighted googly to which Misbah played outside the line and was hit right in front of the middle. Misbah reviewed the decision, but there wasn’t much of a case for him. The third one was off a quicker delivery that Adnan Akmal chose to play on the back foot, but it skidded past the inside edge on to the stumps to leave Pakistan in tatters. Pakistan were reduced from 52 for 2 to 60 for 6 in a matter of minutes as Tahir found the right length on the pitch.
Pakistan hopes for some resistance in the second session disappeared as soon as Saeed Ajmal was run out by a direct hit. Then, Tahir picked up two more wickets in an over – Asad Shafiq went for a slog and missed a straighter one while Mohammad Irfan missed a googly. Babar played a few shots but despite a 23-run stand for the last wicket, he didn’t stand in the way for Pakistan’s second sub-100 score in Dubai. Steyn, who had set the tone of the day with a perfect outswinger to dismiss Khurram Manzoor in his first over after being deemed fit in the morning, cleaned up Junaid Khan to collect his third wicket of the innings with a reverse-swinging full delivery.
South Africa, as Smith had said at the toss, wanted to make first use of the pitch and their bowlers made sure they were in to bat midway in the second session.
Pakistan took to the field desperately seeking wickets, and they used both their reviews within five overs – once when Irfan hit Graeme Smith on the pads and the next time when the slip cordon was convinced Alviro Petersen had gloved one to the keeper – but both were turned down. Pakistan eventually struck through Zulfiqar Babar, who beat Petersen with an arm-ball and trapped him in front in his first over. Petersen belatedly asked for a review, but that call became the sixth review on the day to be turned down.
Run-making had remained difficult throughout the day with two quality bowling attacks in operation and a slow outfield, but Smith and Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla’s replacement in the XI, added 54 runs for the second wicket, helping the team inch towards Pakistan’s total. The home team were slightly set back in their attack as Babar split his webbing and had to leave the field for almost an hour. Ajmal, though, was deriving enough turn from the pitch to trouble the batsmen regularly. He was rewarded with the wickets of Elgar and Jacques Kallis in the last hour.
Smith went past his 38th Test half-century, but with four days and a lot of spin bowling to be negotiated, South Africa need to ward off any complacency by keeping an eye on the scorecard of the previous Test at this venue.